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(CNN) - Soon the days when cows have to scare flies could end. Researchers say that all that is needed to repel pests is a new paint.
Black cows painted to resemble zebras are significantly less likely to suffer bothersome horsefly bites, almost 50% less, according to a new study published in PLOS One .
A team of Japanese researchers recruited six cows and put them with black and white stripes, black stripes and no stripes. They took pictures of the painted right side of the cow, counting the amount of bites that occurred and observing how the cows reacted.
While unpainted cows and black-striped cows withstood more than 110 bites in 30 minutes, black and white cows suffered less than 60 in the same period, the researchers found.
Zebra stripes have more than an aesthetic value: they help defend against bloodsucking animals. Previous studies have shown that flies are less likely to land on black and white surfaces: the polarization of light impairs their perception, so they cannot slow down properly, the researchers wrote.
Fly bites cost the cattle industry billions
When defenseless cows are victims of fly bites, it also bites humans who own them. Itchy flies interfere with grazing, feeding and bedding of cows, and are estimated to cost the livestock industry
in loss of production.
The researchers said that since they can't crush flies, cows exert significant energy to avoid them. They group together to avoid fly attacks, which can increase your risk of heat stress and injury.
It is an ecological solution, although tedious
Water-based paint faded in a few days, so while it is a less invasive solution than an ear tag with pesticides, it is a short-term solution. Ranchers should paint thousands of cows several times a week for best results.
But less bites would improve the health of cows, which would benefit the economy. In addition, replacing paint with pesticides would also benefit the environment and human health, the researchers said. It seems that the weekly art project might be worth it.